Audiobook Review: Luster by Raven Leilani

Luster by Raven Leilani

Published: August 4, 2020 by Macmillan Audio

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


Synopsis: Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else’s open marriage

Edie is stumbling her way through her twentiessharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriagewith rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way. 

Review: This is probably one of the sharpest, wittiest debut novels I have ever read. The author is very good at evoking an atmosphere and feeling from the reader with her words. The entire book felt authentic and raw to me. Which is also why I found it largely sad and uninspiring.

The audiobook narrator was just perfect for this book too. Edie is cynical and fatalistic about literally everything. The narrator perfectly matched that attitude and it was wonderful. That’s also why I wasn’t really invested in this book for most of it. Most of the book is Edie making foolish decisions, getting hurt by it, and repeating those decisions. Which, I think, a lot of us can probably relate to from our early 20’s. I know I can. And an older, hopefully wiser, version of me wanted to appeal to her to stop it. That she was destroying herself for the convenience of others and it wasn’t worth it.

The ending of this book made it for me. I listened to the entire last three hours in one sitting, it was absolutely riveting. All of a sudden all those fatalistic, disparate threads of plot were pulled together in a beautiful moment of clarity for Edie. That ending took this book from a two star book to a four star book, without a doubt.


3 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: Luster by Raven Leilani

  1. Interesting. I would have abandoned it long before the end. I have no patience these days.

    It seems a dangerous path for the author. Were there hints? Did you miss them or were they well hidden?

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I am not sure that there were hints. Ultimately it was a story of Edie and her progression from being self destructive and fatalistic versus experiencing some really horrible life events that force her to grow into a more mature woman. It was a very good story arc, but I did have a hard time with the depressing beginning. If I was reading it versus listening to it I likely would have stopped. But I figured it was only a 6 hour audiobook so even if it didn’t get good, it wasn’t too much time wasted.

      1. Six hours? If you’re doing something else while listening.

        If you can listen to it in six hours, you can read it in half to a quarter of that time. And skim. And look ahead.

        It may be the pandemic. I’ve been in a lockdown due to illness for 30 years+, but the covid-19 has doubled, trebled that. Possibly my patience has worn a bit thin.

        But it has always been preferable, when the ending is Deus ex machina (if this one was), that there be hints. This was one of the reasons for the huge success of The Sixth Sense: in retrospect, it was all there. Some viewers might even piece it out – unless they were distracted by constant suspense.

        That’s playing fair with the reader/viewer.

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